Hockey at-large bid... not completely dead? (UPDATED w/ MON RESULTS)

Submitted by Wolverine In Exile on February 23rd, 2015 at 11:48 AM

In the glow of Sunday's gloriousness, one disturbing item was nearly washed out, the hockey team's inconceivable loss to Ohio St on Friday night. Needing a strong finish to the season to ensure an at-large bid chance, majority opinion was that a non-sweep this weekend was life-threatening (see "Sweep or Die" in Brian's preview).

With the split instead of a sweep, the predicatble happened. Michigan dropped a couple slots all the way down to 20th in Pairwise Rankings (PWR) and are by first blush out of consideration for an at-large bid (see PWR here With the way the NCAA tourney works, you basically have to be higher than 14th to have any confidence of an at-large bid. 16 teams are taken and usually the 15th and 16th slots if not more are taken by conference tourney winners outside the Top 16. This year, there's guaranteed to be one bid stolen from the Top 16 PWR teams, the spot going to the American Hockey champion (right now Robert Morris has secured the regualr season title, and sit at 23 in the PWR).

PWR is essentially a 3-part process where you compare your selves against other teams: RPI (a percentage measure of a team's strength based on record, road wins, and strength of schedule), Common Opponents, and Head-to-head.

While the situation is bad, it's not impossible to see Michigan *even at this point* getting an at-large bid. Assuming Michigan needs to get to at least 15 for an at-large slot, looking at Michigan directly on the PWR matrix, there are 5 teams ahead of us. I list them below with the PWR score, and what they're winning the comparison on:

14. St Cloud St, 0-1, RPI, .5349-.5457

15. Yale, 0-1, RPI, .5349-.5441

16. Harvard, 0-2, RPI & Common opponents

17. UMass-Lowell, 1-2, RPI (.5349-.5374) & Common opponent- note we win head to head

18. Vermont, .0-1, RPI, .5349-.5388

19. St Lawrence, 0-2, RPI (.5349-.5364) & common opponent


So realistically, a delta more than 0.02 in RPI at this point in the season is too much to make up and a common opponent comparison is pretty much set in stone at this point unless you're talking about someone else in your own conference. But Yale, UMass-Lowell, Vermont, and St Lawrence are all only 1 comparison flip away from us jumping them, and it's so bunched up with the difference in RPI so low, there's still a chance. Since we stil have 2 away games against Penn St coming up, the bonus points for a road win that go into RPI still put us in play. If Michigan St keeps improving, we might even be eligilble to gaba bonus road win point adjustment from that Friday night game at Munn on the last regular season weekend.


Basically there's a multi-part formula that's still in play for us to get an at-large slot. It is:

- Go 5-1 / 6-0 to end the regular season. A sweep against Penn St is a necessity. No more room for error.

- Hope Harvard loses to BC tonight (common opponent) and then everybody else from St Cloud St through St Lawrence play middling hockey to end the regular season

- We need to beat Penn St (more likely after this weekend they're going to be a 3 seed) in a BTT Semifinal. We could lose in the final, but only to Minnesota as long as they're sufficiently high in the PWR (and they are right now). Any other B1G team wins the tourney besides Minnesota and we're out for at-large consideration.

- Hope everybody on that list from 14-19 above lose early in their conference tournaments. No semi or finals appearances for them.

We probably can make up enough ground with a winning streak and a BTT finals appearance to flip a single RPI against msot of these teams. The bugaboo would appear to be Harvard-- but they may play themselves into an at-large if they get up to 14. An American Hockey cinderella story isn't going to affect us, and one possible advantage of the B1G being so down, is that each other "big" conference (Hockey East, ECAC, NCHC, WCHA) have most of their contending teams already significantly above us, so it'd have to be a REAL cinderella run by a lower team from those conferences to "steal" another slot. I think we're looking at a tournament this year where the 15 team in PWR gets in as teh last at-large slot.

This is stil highly volatile and Michigan does not have its destiny in its own hands. I'm still of the belief that if we would have swept this weekend, we probably would be at 16 or even 15 in PWR and could have essentially controlled our destiny to an at-large. Now we need help. But it's not impossible.


UPDATE (2/24): With Harvard's loss to BC in the Beanpot 3rd place game, that helped us in two ways:

1. Harvard losing knocked their RPI down a little

2. BC and BU winning actually bumped up our RPI from .5349 to .5352. My back of envelope math shows we're probably within a 1 game difference of Harvard and UMass-Lowell (important for UML since we won head to head). Not sure if we can jump Vermont yet. A Vermont - UML split this weekend probably is the preferred result.

Revised bottom line is that from this point out, beside Michigan finishing 6-0 or 5-1 with a BTT Finals appearance, cheer like hell for Michigan Tech (easy), BC & BU (not so easy) to make huge runs from here on out. Their (BC & BU) improvements in winning percentage alone bumped us up Monday. They're the only OOC opponents we've played that have a realistic shot of helping us by winning a lot the rest of the season. Plus, all three are already ahead of us in PWR significantly, so a conference tourney win by either of the three helps with addition / maintenence of another at-large slot. It's still going to be tight, but the road to slot #15 is still open.



February 23rd, 2015 at 11:57 AM ^

There is indeed a chance but it's now getting to the point where we need help and don't control our own destiny which is never good. We need to sweep this weekend and that will give us a clearer idea of what's needed in the upcoming 3 road games.
We do need to win our last 3 games at home though.

Sac Fly

February 23rd, 2015 at 12:22 PM ^

But can they do it? I don't have the confidence that this team can go 6-0-0 unless they score 30 goals. With how shaky their goaltending has been, I don't see them being able to win at PSU, let alone win all six.

Wolverine In Exile

February 23rd, 2015 at 12:41 PM ^

I don't think this team can clamp down on defense and win a 1-0 / 2-1 game right now, but I wanted to add some perspective away from the "SWEEP OR DIE" and "FIRERED.COM" mentalitiy I saw on the message boards after the games this weekend. In all honesty, if Wiscy and Michigan St are competent teams in out-of-conference this year, we're probably talking about can we stil get a 2 or 3 seed instead of can we still get in the tourney. The weakness of the conference overall is a anchor like no other we've seen in contemporary Michigan hockey history.


February 23rd, 2015 at 11:06 PM ^

Boston College and Boston University wins tonight bumped Michigan up into 19th postition to end the week. I will write up a diary tmrw with a little better picture of what we need this this weekend as there are some big matchups around the country. I have found a tool that says it can predict the pairwise rankings based on user entered results so i will have some fun with it tonight and tmrw morning (I ran a test this afternoon before the two games were played and it accurately predicted the current rankings).

It could be a fun wild ride the rest of the way and I'm loving it.


BTW anyone watch the Beanpot final tonight? i caught most of the third and it seemed like a great game based on the scoring chances and the back and forth action I saw (BU won 4-3 0:59 into OT)


February 24th, 2015 at 4:18 PM ^

Seems like we always overperform at the Joe and I don't know why.

2010 - Should have missed the tournament but as a #7 seed found some Hunwick magic, downed #1 Miami, and won the CCHA tournament; Won the GLI

2012 - CCHA tournament runner-up

2013 - CCHA tournament runner-up

2015 - Beat top 10 Michigan Tech and won the GLI

And this is without digging into the data, but it feels like we usually take down MSU there as well. We always play better than we should at the Joe so I'd put it at 50/50 that we win it


February 24th, 2015 at 11:02 AM ^

I appreciate the work of Wolverine in Exile but I find this all very depressing.  Step back and look at where we are - essentially trying to slip into the tournament by "winning out" when there is nothing in the season's performance to give any support to the idea that this team can accomplish that task.  Do you really think a team that lost to OSU last week, Ferris State, PSU and UNH (both at home!)  has a realistic chance to do that.  I'll believe it when I see it.  The sad truth is that UM hockey is mediocre right now and has been for the last several years.  Look objectively at where we are and where we have been the last several years.  Just hoping to go on a run so we can get into the tournament.  That is not what this program was about and not what it should be about.  I love Red but its time for him to ride off into the sunset with much glory and praise.  He has earned every accolade but his legacy will be tarnished if he allows the program to continue to decline.  


February 24th, 2015 at 1:00 PM ^

so if Michigan were to win out and be ranked around 10th in the nation (which is possible) then this season was a fucking disaster? They can still win the Big Ten, and if the offense clicks they can challenge any team in the country. I say we just let the season play out and se how it ends up before we call for a legend's job. Have I been frustrated right after a loss? yes of course but I also think Red has earned the right to choose when he leaves.

Wolverine In Exile

February 24th, 2015 at 2:03 PM ^

Wow. You're a Debbie Downer. You do realize that in 2011 we were a Tiny Jesus miracle save from winning the whole thing, and 2012 we were in the tourney for a 20th consecutive season and as a 1-seed right? Sure the last two seasons have been bad and some warts have been exposed in the program foundation, but (A) it's not like we're going on a 10 year streak of futility, (B) an above average goaltender probably has us on the edge of the Top 10 in RPI, and (C) a 6-7 game win streak (which we've already done this year against similar competition to what we're going to be facing) gets us in? Lighten up Francis, and look back longer than if you were a sophomore in college this year. Plus, have you watched college hockey the last 10 years? The depth is across the board better in every conference- longtime doormats like the ECAC have risen up to be national powerhouses. It's not the 90s where all you ahd to be was Michigan with high powered recruiting classes and guarantee yourself a 2 seed at minimum. College hockey is harder now overall than it was 10 years ago, and Michigan's (relative) struggles the past two years have proven that out. 


February 24th, 2015 at 2:58 PM ^

You can call me Debbie Downer, whatever.   Better to be realistic than to continue to delude yourself that this Michigan hockey team  is anything other than slightly better than mediocre. To answer a few of your questions, I saw my first game at Yost in 1973 and watched a lot of games until 1980.  Moved away and didn't see many again until 1989.  Started going again then and have been a season ticket holder since 1997 - after 3 years on the waiting list.  (Remember those?  Waiting lists for season tickets instead of empty seats at Yost?)  The 90s were not as you claim.   The competition was intesnse, albeit with a smaller group of schools.  Maine, BU, North Dakota, Lake State, MSU, Minnesota , Wisconsin et al all regularly had very very good teams.  It wasn't UM just throwing out what showed up at the door to Yost and becoming a 2 seed.  UM had very, very strong teams that were highly talented and well-coached and they succeeded despite lots of competition.  The 1997 team was the best college team I've ever seen.  But they lost to BU in the semis so it wasn't ever a cake walk.  

 BTW 2011 was the year we lost in the finals.  We rode Hunwick to the finals with a stunning upset of North Dakota in the semis. I don't recall the shot differential but ND totally dominated the game.   Other than that team, we haven't been a real contender for the NC since 2003 when I watched Thomas Vanek slip one past Al Montoya in OT in Buffalo. Even when we made the tourney, we've have a recent history of one and done.  2009, 2010 and 2012 all were one and dones.  09 loss was to Miami when the ref waved off a UM goal, but the others were to Cornell and Yale- fergodsakes.

 I totally reject the idea that because others have gotten better it excuses Michigan getting worse.  The UM teams of 2013-present couldn't carry the bags of the 97 team or even the 2003 team.  That's on the Michigan program - it's not because Union or Ferris or anyone else has gotten better.  So, we can either accept mediocrity or do what the football program has done; make hard changes so that the hockey program can be what it once was - a legitimate NC contender every year.  That's Michigan hockey.  


February 24th, 2015 at 4:25 PM ^

Well, we are  not in the top 16 for 3 years in a row.  And, aside from 2011, it's been a long time since we've been a legit threat to do anything in the tournament.  Red is a legend and I love him dearly.  He has contributed immeasureably to college hockey, to the University and to the lives of his players.   I hate to see great men hold on too long.  When I was much younger, I remember watching Willie Mays finish with the Mets and it hurt to watch maybe the greatest all around baseball player of all time after age had robbed him of his ability.    Knowing when your time is up is so difficult but it happens to everyone.  The decline of the program is obvious to anyone who looks at it objectively.   


February 24th, 2015 at 4:50 PM ^

They've only missed the tournament the last two seasons man. If you were to actually look at it objectively you'd realize that yes they had a really rough season 2 years ago, improved last year and are right back in the thick of a tournament race this year. Should izzo be fired because he hasn't gone to the final four in the last five years? What about coach K losing first round matchups? Babcock not making it to the Stanley cup final since 2009 mean wings fans should be calling for his job?


February 24th, 2015 at 11:42 PM ^

I expect UM hockey to be in the tournament every year. I don't think our goal for the season should be to be" in the thick of a tournament race this year."   First, they aren't in the thick of it - they are outside looking in and need a miracle finish to make the tourney.   Every season they don't make it is a failure.   Not sorry to have high expectations but I am very sorry that so many UM hockey fans are satisfied with this level of hockey.   I think this is what's wrong with the program.  It's complacency.  It's OK we aren't good because we were so good for so long.   We don't have to play hard every night, every shift because we are Michigan and we made the tournament for 20 plus years.  If you've watched this team, and the teams over the last 3 seasons, its obvious the effort is not consisent every night, the schemes and sets are stale, and player development is uneven. It reeks of complacency like the football program at the end of the Carr era.    I hope for the good of the program Red calls it a glorious career at the end of the season and we turn our attention to making Michigan an elite hockey program once again.